Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Catholic Scholars on the Canon

Here are some excerpts from the Jerome Biblical Commentary, a book produced by the contributions of a large group of Catholic scholars as outlined in the editor's preface:

"The question of the Catholic interpretation of the Bible constantly reappears. It seemed to the editors that the best way to expose the misunderstanding implicit in this question was to produce a commentary written entirely by Catholics. This would allow readers off all persuasions to see a representative group of Catholic scholars at work – not the isolated and allegedly liberal mavericks, but some fifty contributors teaching in the Catholic colleges and seminaries in the United States, Canada, and abroad."

The Jerome Biblical Commentary
Brown, Fitzmyer, and Murphy
Imprimatur: Lawrence Cardinal Shehan, Archbishop of Baltimore

In the section entitled Canonicity, the issues surrounding the acceptance of the deuterocanonicals into the canon is discussed:

"Doubts about the deuterocanonical books keep recurring in the history of the Church among those who are aware of the Jewish canon. Those who prefer the shorter canon or express some doubt about the full canonical status of the deuterocanonicals include Cyril of Jerusalem, Gregory Nazianzen, Epiphanius, Rufinus, Gregory the Great, John Damascene, Hugh of St. Victor, Nicholas of Lyra, and Cardinal Cajetan.

As mentioned earlier, the Council of Trent accepted definitively the deuterocanonicals, and it did so directly in opposition to the Protestant preference for the Jewish canon. Although as Catholics we accept the statement of the Council as binding in faith, it is wise for us to know some of the difficulties that surround this statement. Even on the eve of the Council the Catholic view was not absolutely unified, as the mention of Cajetan in the preceding paragraph clearly indicates. Catholic editions of the Bible published in Germany and in France in 1527 and 1530 contained only the protocanonical books. The Fathers of the Council knew of the 4th century African councils that had accepted the deuterocanonical books, and they knew the position taken at Florence; but at the time of Trent, there were insufficient historical tools to reconstruct the real picture of the canon in the 1st century." (pg 523)

As with the New Catholic Encyclopedia, the authors of The Jerome Biblical Commentary outline some of the uncertainty that existed within the Catholic Church throughout history with regards to the OT canon. They have also provided us with additional names to add to the list in the previous post: Gregory Nazianzen (4th), Hugh of St. Victor (12th) and Cardinal Cajetan (16th).

We will look at more excerpts from this book in the next post.


Reginald de Piperno said...


FYI I'm not going to be interacting with this post.

The NJBC may have the imprimatur, but that only means it doesn't contradict the faith. Unfortunately, it seems that (like the NAB notes on the text of the Bible) this book is badly infected by liberal thinking about the text. See here for an example critique.

FWIW if this book confirms what the New Catholic Encyclopedia says on the canon, then I'd have to be suspicious of what the NCE says on that subject as well (and so I'm glad I gave nothing more than a provisional acceptance :-)

I won't say any more than this on these topics. I've spent most of my time since converting reading theology, not commentaries, and so my familiarity with the lay of the land with regard to Catholic Bible commentaries is poor (something that I will remedy, but there is only so much time in a day).

Anyway...the point being that appeals to this book are unlikely to have much force with orthodox Catholics. Just FYI.

Carrie said...

I don't think this book says anything that can't be substantiated elsewhere as I have seen this material from other sources. As I have time (which may be months from now) I will try to look at some other resources.

I am surprised that you would be suspicious of the Catholic Encyclopedia. You may want to read their section on Protestantism to see that they are Catholics through and through.

Reginald de Piperno said...

With regard to the original Catholic Encyclopedia - I entirely agree. It's a great reference (I just bought it on CD). I don't know (literally) about the new one, though.

If you want an orthodox Catholic Bible commentary, try the Navarre Bible. But it's ten hardcover volumes (there are paperback editions for individual books).

Carrie said...

The New Catholic Encyclopedia is not saying anything in contrast to the old encyclopedia, the wording is just a bit difierent. Since you have the Old Catholic Encyclopedia you can check these facts yourself.

I didn't pick up this book for the commentary, I was just interested in the section on the canon. It is consistent with articles I have read elsewhere and references a large number of sources.